I am a Luddite, or at least on the Luddite spectrum. I drive a stick shift. I write in cursive. The only thing I dread more than a software update is a hardware update. It took me eight years to upgrade from my 2007 MacBook (and I miss my built-in DVD drive). In about six months, my 80-gig iPod video and I will celebrate a decade together. I feared touch screens until I was 25. I will admit that I do like being able to have access to email and maps on my smartphone—but I still won’t use a tablet. (I just don’t like them!)
I was five years old when the internet was invented, and I don’t know how I fell so far behind when it comes to digital technology. I feel like a poor representative of my generation, especially when asked to provide tech help. I have to ask friends for computer help a lot. I joke with them that “computers are run by magic” and they do not appreciate it. I had an English professor who, at 74, was much more tech-adept than I still am. It can get embarrassing.
So to combat all this fear, mistrust, and ignorance, I have been trying to drag myself (albeit kicking and screaming) into this tech-driven world of ours. There are a few reasons behind this. For one, my MLIS program is all online. I always thought I’d be the last person to take an online course, but I couldn’t deny that my program was the best fit for me. It’s also well-documented fact that libraries have embraced technology as a way to stay alive.
I work at a public library where I have seen the Digital Divide in action. After one particularly frustrating moment of trying to explain to someone that an email address and Amazon account are not the same thing, it struck me that perhaps I’m not as far behind as I think. And I can change. And best of all, learning these things myself can help me explain them to other new beginners.
The good news about the ubiquity of technology is that there are countless tools at your disposal. I keep my eye out for helpful articles like this one from EdSurge. I joined our department’s Tech Team so I can stop saying things like, “I’m not sure how to turn the iPad on.” So far, in school, I’ve enrolled in courses in Python, HTML, and XML. I’m pretty sure I’ll never be a programmer, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I have taken away.
As someone who admittedly has a long way to go, the biggest piece advice I can offer is this: simply open yourself up. Find trusted resources and use them for help, whether that’s a forum, a person (or a core of people if you think your questions start to fray their patience). Look at your local library to see what resources you have access to: I have long-term plans to explore mine’s Lynda.com access and look at the class calendar. Honestly, I maintain that watching HBO’s Silicon Valley was helpful because it gave me techy Wikipedia search terms. Be curious and do your research—as an aspiring information professional, those are skills you already have.
That being said, I don’t see myself making the jump to eBooks or lining up for the Next Cool Gadget. A paperless, one-touch existence presents its own set of problems. I don’t like the idea of my sensitive information being stored digitally, especially given massive insurance hacks. I feel disempowered by phones and computers without removable batteries, and by cars whose dashboards lack temperature gauges and tachometers. In some ways, it seems like users are losing power as technicians become more necessary and more information is prone to hacking. My personal goal is to use my research skills to empower myself on these new fronts to try to reduce feeling so helpless.
I think we Luddites have an important role to play as skeptics as we see the pace of these advances quicken. Some things, like that people-rating app, are immediately recognizable as bad, tech-for-tech’s-sake ideas. But society needs vigilance and long-term thinking as we investigate the impacts from the demise of cursive, increased reading on screens, or the rise of online learning. For my part, I’m going to wade into this brave new world with my laptop in one hand and my spiral-bound notebook in the other.
Lauren Seegmiller is a Senior Library Clerk at Denver Public Library, and pursuing her MLIS online through University of Washington’s iSchool. Most of the pictures on her smartphone are of old books she finds in the stacks. It’s on her to-do list to get better at tweeting: @DeusExLaurena.